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Steve hurriedly entered the meeting room after returning from his first cigarette break for the morning, one of the hourly breaks the rest of the office staff used to synchronise their watches. “Okay, people. What you see in this room, what you hear, everything that is discussed, stays in this room. Got it?” He looked around at each of those present, looked them in the eye, seeking confirmation they understood. Read the rest of this entry »
The girls looked to read each other’s minds and both saw doubt. Ashley waited patiently for a decision.
“I’ve really got to get home and do some things before tomorrow”, Tina said, a little apologetically.
Rochelle took this as a warning not to go. “Me too. And I’m still a bit under the weather from last night.
“So you’re going to leave me to clean up after you?”, Ashley accused. Read the rest of this entry »
Hello again! Thanks for reading and voting, everyone! Votes at the end of Chapter 12 resulted in a tie for the thread you want to follow so I decided to combine the threads into the first scene of Chapter 13, just to confuse you all! ;)
Here we go! Read the rest of this entry »
The girls raced out, as much as they could in their fancy dresses and heels while donning jackets, to Rochelle’s car out on the street. Tina was on the phone calling Anthony, and Rochelle fumbling her keys with her jacket half on, remotely opening the doors. Rochelle sped away as Anthony answered the call from Tina.
Tina skipped the small talk. “Hey! Change of plan. We have a problem. Can you meet us at Rochelle’s place? We’re on our way back there. She lives at Unit 3, Number 7, Wicklow Court, Brookville. Be on the lookout for a black sedan with tinted windows and — Huh? I don’t know what sort of sedan! One without a window in its boot, I suppose. It might have no number plate, too. Call me back when you get there or if you see the car or any car near there acting suspiciously. Is Jake with you? Where are you?”
What’s in the briefcase, he asks. Rochelle simply returned the officer’s gaze, regardless of how guilty it might make her appear. After all she couldn’t possibly answer the question. Obviously she doesn’t know what’s in it and she can’t reveal that to the police. If she says she doesn’t know they will simple ask to open it and she would have no reason to stop them and her instructions strictly forbade opening the briefcase. She could make up something but again, he’ll want to make sure. No, she must steer the questioning away from the briefcase, it was a no-brainer. Read the rest of this entry »
Rochelle stopped where she was and almost dropped the briefcase from her left hand. Her backpack was hanging by its strap on her right hand, frozen on its way to her shoulder. The blue and red lights on the roof of the white car parked near her driveway were unmistakeable. Peering through the back window she could see the tops of the front seats and apparently no heads. The car was empty. Read the rest of this entry »
Rochelle didn’t recognise the mobile number on the phone’s display but its mere presence was a relief. None of these mysterious blocked numbers with those briefcase related text messages. She clicked the green button. “Hello?”
“Hello Dear, it’s Ruby. How are you?”
Rochelle’s mouth wouldn’t work immediately. Ruby sounded perfectly fine. Rochelle sensed no stress that would be expected from a kidnap victim. She began wondering if the note about them having the old lady was correct or even real. Tina found it on Ruby’s coffee table. Could they be referring to another old lady? If so why was it on Ruby’s coffee table when Ruby was also missing? “Um, I’m fine, thanks Ruby. More importantly, how are you?” Read the rest of this entry »
Thanks everyone who read and voted at the end of Chapter 7.
Time’s up! Voting is now closed.
Who’s idea was it to put Ruby in the list of options? Probably mine. Anyway, it looks like voters chose to have Ruby call up Rochelle even though it looks like she’s been stolen away by someone.
How’s this going to work? Aren’t there a few loose ends forming? Come back in a week or so to find out what happens in Chapter 8.
See you soon!
“We have the old lady. This should encourage you to keep the briefcase with you at all times”, The note read. “Your actions from now on will determine what becomes of her. Very important: Keep the briefcase with you. Do not open it.”
Speechless, Rochelle could only glare wide-eyed at Tina.
“We have to go to the police with this. It’s too big now”, Tina said. “You know if something happens to her and they find out that we knew she was taken and said nothing we could be in huge trouble. Criminal sort of trouble.”
Rochelle began frantically searching the lounge room. “They must have left something else. Clues as to who they are. Maybe we can find her. Find them first and then get her.”
Tina grabbed Rochelle’s shoulders and held her friend tight. “Listen! It’s beyond us. We can’t do any more on our own. We have to hand it over.”
Rochelle knew she was right but simply stared back. “We can’t.”
“They won’t believe us. We only have the note and it mentions the briefcase and we can’t let them know about that.”
“Why have you become so protective of that thing? Why don’t we let the police handle that too? Then you’ll be done with it.”
“I’m pretty sure they’re tracking both me and the briefcase somehow. The messages seem to indicate when they think I’m near it. And how do we know they won’t harm Ruby now if I separate from the thing?” Rochelle pointed to the note in Tina’s hand. Tina read it again and nodded her head. “I’m even reluctant to go to the police about Ruby but I’m really worried about her. I don’t want to be responsible if anything happens to her. You’re right. We should let the police handle Ruby. But we don’t show them the note or let them know anything about the briefcase, right?”
* * *
At the local police station Tina felt uncomfortable with Rochelle’s deflective answers to the policeman’s requests for clarification and stepped back slightly as if telling the constable she’s only the driver who brought her here. The briefcase Rochelle held in her left hand didn’t help calm her either. It should have been ten feet tall, grey, with tusks and a trunk, in Tina’s opinion.
“Listen Ms. Summers. I understand you are concerned about your neighbour. But from what you’re telling me, an old lady with the fitness of someone half her age whom you last saw yesterday evening, is not home and you suspect she’s been kidnapped?”, the experienced senior constable put to her.
“Umm, yes. But I have very good reason to believe she’s been taken against her will.”
“Yes and from what you’re not telling me, you seem unwilling to help make our job easier in finding her.” He looked at her closely. “Is there something else you’d like to share?”
Rochelle simply looked back. Tina made a not so subtle coughing noise. Everyone waited. Finally the constable relented, but only a little.
“Okay, we’ll file your report but as it’s been less than twenty-four hours we can’t do much with the information you’ve provided. I suggest you go away and think about what information you have and weigh that up against the risk you think your neighbour is against. ”
Rochelle paused before nodding her agreement. “Alright. I will do that.”
“And please let us know if she comes home so we can update the report. And of course if she’s still missing tomorrow.”
“Okay, thank you.” Rochelle then took Tina’s wrist and led her out of the police station.
Once outside Tina lent her two cents worth. “I think you should have given them the note. He obviously thought you were wasting his time. He could so tell you had more information than you were giving him.”
“No shit”, was Rochelle’s only reply. She had already decided not to involve the police with the briefcase but realised there could be potential help there.
“How can you expect them to do their job if you don’t given them all the details?”
Silence from Rochelle.
“And why on earth did you tell them she works out and is as fit as an ox? Hardly portrays her as a frail old lady who will need their help.”
“I dunno, I thought if a strong woman was abducted the police would think these guys are really desperate and therefore dangerous so it would sound more urgent.”
Tina sighed, realising the argument would only escalate if she continued ranting. “Okay, Babe. I think I’m going to go home and do some washing, grab some dinner then head to the gym.” No invitation for Rochelle to come along. Tina needed space. “Gotta look good for Saturday, hey!”
“It’s too late for that”, Rochelle retorted before reviewing her words. “I mean it’s too late to start doing something about it. You know what I mean.” Despite the tension she could feel, Rochelle didn’t want to exacerbate it.
“Yes, I know what you mean.” Tina paused. It had been a long almost-twenty-four hours. If she spent any more time with Rochelle they’d be at each other’s throats. Tina was looking forward to the double date on Saturday night as much as Rochelle and didn’t want to jeopardise the possibilities. After a wordless trip back to Rochelle’s place, Tina left for home.
Rochelle went inside dropped her shopping bags and the briefcase, plopped onto the couch and realised it was the first time she’d been in here since yesterday morning. She was facing the TV with the front window to her right looking across the drive to the opposite units. The curtains were still open and had been all night. She cringed at the thought. They must have been here, paying her place a visit, knowing she wasn’t home. Probably peering in the windows and having a good old sticky-nose at her home.
There was nothing unusual about the TV, no notes stuck to it and it was still on standby. Glancing down at the coffee table she saw the TV guide, a few magazines, a stack of coasters and a small white vase with a single dying flower. No notes. Exactly as she left it yesterday morning.
The few picture frames she owned still hung on the walls. She forced herself up and cautiously headed to the kitchen carefully examining everything for signs of change. Nothing.
Hallway, nothing. Laundry, nothing.
Main bedroom, this room was Rochelle’s personal space. The thought of intrusion into this part of the place was somehow more disturbing. It required more careful checks. Bedside table, nothing. Wardrobe, all her clothes were there. Bed? Se pulled back the covers to reveal nothing hidden. Dresser? All the usual paraphernalia was there as it was yesterday when she left for work. Damn it! She was sure they’d left something for her here. Where is it? Drawers? She went through every drawer in both bedside cabinets and the dresser, pulling out every single pair of underwear, socks, stockings, tops, everything. Nothing that shouldn’t be there.
Bathroom? Medicine cabinet – Clear. Vanity cabinet – full of the usual.
Rochelle had run out of places where anything about the briefcase mission or Ruby could be. She was certain they would try to communicate with her. Especially now that Tina was gone. Would they know that? She had to believe they did. They were tracking her every movement, weren’t they?
As if in answer to that thought her mobile signalled a text from the lounge where she left it. “Rochelle, congratulations on obeying the instructions so far. Keep the briefcase with you at all times. Ruby is safe. Please do not go back to the police station. It is unnecessary.”
All right, enough. Off to the gym. She has to get her mind off this madness. A good solid workout should do the trick. She thanked her good fortune that Tina didn’t go to the same gym. Rochelle frowned at the tan briefcase she realised she’d have to bring with her. “Okay, you can come too.” She mumbled to it. She ran around gathering up her gym gear and hoisted the briefcase up off the floor and left for the gym.
At the gym she was only slightly surprised by the few people who seemed to care that she was carrying the unusual case with her to the treadmill. She placed it in front where she could see it while she did her run, carried it with her to the weights bench and then to the change rooms, even left it right outside the shower cubicle while she showered. No one batted an eyelid. Why was she so worried about what people would think? People are to absorbed in their own lives, that’s why. Especially here.
After gym, Rochelle scooted past the supermarket to pick up some vegies and things to make a light salad for dinner, again taking the briefcase with her everywhere. The checkout girl didn’t even want to see inside it, thank goodness. That was a thought that never occurred to her until she was about to pay. Of course, she didn’t want to look inside. It’s a supermarket not a department store.
Back at home Rochelle dumped the briefcase and gym bag in the lounge and brought everything else to the kitchen. She began whipping up the salad, proud of herself for putting up with the briefcase the whole time and having no problems with it. Well, it was a rather easy ride. Considering the next day at work, Rochelle didn’t think the day would present any challenges either. On the train and in the city everyone carries a briefcase of some sort, albeit more attractive ones that this horrendous creation, so tomorrow should be a breeze. Only one extra thing to carry around. Uncomfortable but bearable.
Propped up on the couch with her bowl of salad and a fork, feet up on the far armrest, she flicked on the TV but didn’t bother channel surfing. She just wanted the distraction. As soon as Rochelle committed her first forkful of salad to its fate in her hungry mouth, her mobile rang.